In (2009). In the 2009/10 budget, the Commonwealth

In this paper, I plan to challenge the theory of this
suggestion that in Australia (and especially in higher education) is
meritocratic, focusing on the gender demographics and the overall number of
enrolments that is occurring. By using statistics from creditable sources and
academic papers that have already been conducted in this field, I plan to
demonstrate that the above mentioned is in fact incorrect.

Osbourne proclaimed that ‘many writers recognise that
higher education began as education for an elite or meritocracy’ (Osbourne,
2005) and this was the case up until the late 19th century. In 1972,
the Labour government saw education as the key to equality of opportunity (Gale
& Tranter, 2011) and 2 years later the Commonwealth Government committed to
abolishing the tuition fees (Department of Education Science and Training,
DEST 2002) but the higher socio-economic groups still continued to dominate
higher education, Gale & Tranter argues ‘any increase in equity that might
have occurred had been effectively diluted within a stratified higher education
system’ (Gale & Tranter, 2011, p. 35).

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A 10-year review (1991-2002) of equity groups that showed
little change for low socio-economic and rural/isolated groups although
participation for women, people with disabilities and those from non-English
speaking backgrounds had improved (Coates & Krause, 2005). Given all the
challenges low socio-economic students faced in this time then the 2008 Global Financial
Crisis impacted Australia and its higher education systems. This is where
Australia went against the trends that other countries were heading and went
the counter-cyclical approach.  The
Commonwealth Government identified a ten-year reform agenda which included
strategies to improve the participation of Indigenous Australians and students
from low socio-economic backgrounds, from regional and remote areas (Commonwealth
of Australia, 2009 Commonwealth of Australia (2009). In the 2009/10 budget, the
Commonwealth Government removed the cap on domestic undergraduate enrolments
from 2012 which created 50,000 new student places by 2013 (Commonwealth of
Australia 2010; Leach 2010)